Chinese Collection

Compton Verney’s Chinese galleries contain one of the finest collections of ancient Chinese bronzes outside of China. In 2015 the Chinese Collection was re-displayed, which has seen the gallery spaces completely transformed with new low-level cases making the works more accessible; dramatic lighting which reveals the striking patination on the surface of the bronzes and more interpretation to help visitors to Compton Verney understand and appreciate the true extent of the collection.

The collection centres on the magnificent bronze ritual vessels which, from as early as 1500 BC, the ancient Chinese buried with their dead. As in Ancient Egypt, the Chinese of the time believed that the dead required food and wine to sustain them in the afterlife, and resolved that this sustenance should be served in vessels appropriate to their status and wealth. Some of the most extraordinary bronzes ever cast were made by the Chinese for this purpose.

The vessels here were produced over a period of over 1500 years under many different Chinese rulers, and date from the early Shang Dynasty (about 1700 to 1050 BC) to the Han Dynasty (206 BC to AD 220). The collection also includes pottery pieces, such as a set of twelve painted pottery equestrian figures made for placing in a tomb to guard the deceased.

The new thematic presentation of the collection see’s five different areas explored:

  1. Introduction revealing the historical and cultural significance of the collection and setting it into the context of Chinese culture. This section has also been accentuated with loans of pottery from the British Museum and jade from a private  collection which illustrate that the forms and designs of the works in Compton Verney’s collections continued to be seen in Chinese culture for many thousands of years and were repeated in many different materials
  2. Food, wine and ritual revealing the use of many of the vessels and their significance as burial items
  3. The Horse focusing on the magnificent three-foot high heavenly horse and Tang horse figures
  4. Mirrors showing bronze mirrors decorated with scenes of the cosmos and the afterlife
  5. Animal patterns revealing the animal designs used on many of the vessels and their cultural significance

We would like to thank DCMS/Wolfson Museums & Galleries Improvement Fund and Arts Council England for helping to fund the re-display of this Collection in 2015.

Designated as an Outstanding Collection


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